How Haiti Earthquake Of 1770, Anthrax Outbreak And The Haitian Revolution Are Related

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Slave Rebellion in Saint Domingue, Toussaint L.Ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines

In 1770, Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince was struck by an earthquake. The political and social institutions of those times were completely shocked and blundered by the earthquake. Taking advantage of the destruction, majority of the slaves managed to escape, leading to further chaos. The stability of the country was lost and it went on to prove that Haiti then depended on its slaves for its stability. Even more disturbing was the fact that immediately after the earthquake, a mysterious plague claimed the lives of 15,000 people in Haiti.

The escaped slaves were responsible for harvesting and cooking and in their absence, the country was starving. Hiding in the countryside, the slaves even managed to cut off the supply of wild food, worsening the situation even more for the city-dwellers. As a result people purchased meat from Spanish merchants. These merchants failed to sell these meat in Spain. Soon there was an outbreak and people started falling sick with blackened lesions that were painful and eventually led to death. Back then, people could not figure out what caused this. Some thought it to be smallpox while epidemiologist Noah Webster called it Black Death.

The plague spread like forest fire and with the earthquake's devastations and Haitian Revolution closing up fast, the plague grabbed attention. Today, modern scientists believe that it was anthrax. These anthrax spores are known to spread from dead bodies and are capable of surviving very high temperatures and as a result, they thrived and multiplied inside the stomachs of those who ate the meat bought from Spanish merchants. With the earthquake destroying kitchens and firewood becoming scarce, people either smoked the meat and ate it, or simple salted and ate it because they were starving to death and they just decided to take their chances. Today, the plague is known to the medical historians as one of the earliest known records of a large scale anthrax breakout.

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Read more: Earthquake, Haitian Revolution, Anthrax, History

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